The first examination of the Postmodern photographs of Allan Chasanoff, whose experimental work challenges the notion of photography as a truthful record of the “real”
The Yale University Art Gallery is delighted to announce the publication of Seeing and Not Believing: The Photography of Allan Chasanoff, the first book to present and survey Allan Chasanoff’s (1936–2020, B.A. 1961) highly diverse and often cutting-edge Postmodern experiments in photography. With more than 200 images, many previously unpublished, the publication brings Chasanoff’s contribution to Postmodern photography to a wider audience and underscores how the artist’s work challenges our assumptions about believing what we see.
From the 1960s onward, Chasanoff maintained a daily photographic practice, producing tens of thousands of images that pushed the limits of the medium and questioned its reliability as a document of reality. Preferring to experiment away from the art world, Chasanoff rarely exhibited his photographs, his work remaining unknown to all but a select circle of friends and collaborators. To the few who knew his work during his lifetime—including Richard Benson, former dean of the Yale School of Art, and Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian at the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, who contributes the preface to the catalogue—he was an artistic genius working at the limits of the medium.
Chasanoff received his B.A. from Yale College in 1961. After graduation, he worked with his father and brother in commercial real estate development and became an avid and eclectic collector of art, amassing important holdings of 20th-century photography (the majority of which was gifted to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 1993 and exhibited and published in 1994, while other works went to the Yale University Art Gallery, where they were exhibited and published in First Doubt: Optical Confusion in Modern Photography); ceramics (a significant part of which was donated to and exhibited and published by the Mint Museum of Arts and Design, Charlotte, N.C.); book art (which was exhibited and published in an award-winning catalogue by the Yale University Art Gallery, Odd Volumes: Book Art from the Allan Chasanoff Collection); posters; Japanese seals; and more. He also pursued a daily practice of making photographs, first using analog equipment and later employing a sophisticated array of digital tools. Throughout his life, Chasanoff’s fascination with the photographic process and desire to challenge our instinctive belief in the photograph as “truth teller” never wavered. The intellectual curiosity, technical inventiveness, and sincere joy he brought to his explorations in the medium are brilliantly described in the catalogue by Mónika Sziládi, Chasanoff’s archivist from 2013 to 2020 and a practicing artist herself.